June 16 is Bloomsday, the day when Leopold Bloom, the Jewish-descended protagonist of James Joyce’s novel “Ulysses,” took his quasi-Homeric one-day odyssey through Dublin. It’s the day when Dubliners and Joyce’s fans throughout the world celebrate the legacy of the great Irish novelist, whose protagonist transcends all cultural and temporal borders while remaining both Irish and Jewish.
Bloomsday, the semi-official holiday dedicated to the celebration of James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” has become a favorite festival for both Irish and Jewish folks of the literary persuasion. And why should the holiday, celebrated the 16th of June (when all of main action of “Ulysses” takes place), not appeal to both groups? The novel’s incredibly likable everyday hero, Irishman Leopold Bloom — the son of a Jewish father and a Christian mother — has a deeply empathetic outlook on the world and a good comeback on hand to hurl at antisemites (reminding them their Savior was a Jew). He also has an amusing streak of sexual voyeurism and an abiding love for his curvaceous bombshell of a wife, Molly Bloom. Leopold adores Molly even though their marriage is on the rocks. And she loves him too, despite infidelity and tragedy, as revealed by her famous stream-of-consciousness monologue that closes out the novel — and usually closes out Bloomsday readings as well.